5 Tips for Using Grain Storage Bins
Have you ever thought about how to use grain storage bins long term? Here are our best tips on storing grains and maintaining proper moisture levels.
Grain storage bins are the solution for long term grain storage.
But to achieve success, it’s important to understand best practices for prepping, loading, marketing, and storage.
American farmers produce 38.7 percent of the world’s corn and 35 percent of the world’s soybeans. Idaho is consistently one of the top 10 states for wheat production. That’s a lot of grain to be stored.
Learn how to keep your grain safe from unwanted pests — both seen and unseen — with this quick guide.
Prepare Your Bins Properly
Proper storage always begins with proper cleaning and maintenance of the grain storage bins. All bins, equipment and the surrounding areas should be scrubbed and disinfected before grain goes in.
Follow this checklist before grain goes in to prevent many problems later.
- Clean bins and equipment.
- Get rid of or displace any equipment that is no long serving its purpose well.
- Inspect and support your bin’s foundation to avoid a collapse in older or unstable bins.
- Check for rodent damage. Mice often nest in handling equipment and in areas around the bin.
- Properly repair any rodent damage and seal any entryways they may have made to have easier access to nesting areas.
- Check for weather damage.
- Replace corroded fans, ducts or wiring. Clean any accumulated dust and dirt. These prevent airflow, reduce efficiency and can reduce the life of your bin’s moving parts.
- Apply state approved insecticides to the bin. If your bin was infested last year, it may be advisable to hire a professional exterminator. If it’s not properly taken care of before the grain goes in, it will likely be much worse for you this year.
Load And Unload With Care
Grain that goes into the bin should be clean, dry and free of foreign objects.
Carefully consider your loading procedures to reduce the possibilities of debris mixing with the grain. Additionally, you’ll want to keep kernels as unbroken as possible.
If you’re producing grain for human consumption, then a vertical bucket elevator will be needed to safely transport the grain into the bin.
Grain blowers should only be used if the grain is animal feed. Blowers stir up debris and shatter the grains.
If you have multiple bins, always rotate which bin you’re selling grain from so that no bin is entirely emptied. This helps promote air movement in each bin.
Always use caution when unloading your grain storage bins. Unloading your bins will happen through the bottom of your grain storage bin. This is the safest and most effective way to unload a bin.
First of all, quality matters here. Buying high-quality bins and grain drying equipment will save you time and money because it will make managing the grain storage bin environment so much easier.
Properly drying the grain before storage will help prevent the growth of insects, mold, and fungus. These destroyers of crops are already present in the live grain. They only need the right circumstances to thrive. Don’t give them the right environment and you can easily keep them at bay.
By properly drying, you can increase the storage life of your grain. While it may seem counter-intuitive, selling new grain first can actually help reduce the moisture problem because less fresh from the field grain is going into storage.
Set up a ventilation system that will quickly and evenly distribute the moisture among the stored grain to prevent pockets of moist grain where mold and fungus can incubate before spreading throughout the unit.
Moisture requirements for grains can vary not only by the grain but by the length of time storage.
For example, soybeans should be kept at under 13 percent moisture if storing up to six months. But if you plan to store longer than six months, you’ll need to get the moisture down to below 11 percent.
Corn stored for under six months should not exceed 15 percent. Over six months and you’ll need to keep it below 13 percent.
These days, reducing moisture and maintaining it are easier with PLC based touch controls and smartphone apps that allow you to monitor your storage bins from anywhere.
If you’re storing greater than 2,000 bushels, then the temperature inside the grain storage bins must be maintained. Without a cooling system, inside temperatures can exceed 90 degrees. The grain bin can become the perfect home for grain’s worst enemies if you’re not careful.
Use your aeration system to keep grain cool. Ideally, the grain should get to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit as quickly as possible.
Most organisms will go into dormancy at that temperature. This doesn’t stop spoilage. But it does put it into slow motion to significantly increase longer term storage success. (Note: Grain storage temperatures vary. Check with a professional adviser for your specific needs.)
However, there’s a catch. If grain will be marketed past May in most areas, you run the risk of condensation. This can occur when the inside temperature is far below outside temperature.
In this case, your best option is to keep the inside temperature no lower than 15 degrees below average outside temperatures. And you may need to make adjustments.
You can set up an intermittent fan operating system to reduce energy costs during storage, but only after proper moisture content is reached and stable.
Set an Inspection Schedule
Inspect each of your grain storage bins weekly during summer months. During the winter, monthly should suffice. In some regions, more frequency may be necessary.
Go to the top and open it up — without going inside.
Look for a crust on the top or a pungent smell. These are the first signs that something may be off in terms of moisture or temperature.
If you catch it early enough you may be able to make an adjustment. But more than likely, you’ll need to unload the bin so that the affected grain can be removed and marketed early.
Grain Storage Bin Solutions That Work
By applying these best practices, you are able to extend the storage life of your grain significantly. At the same time, you’ll increase its retention of nutrients and quality of grain you take to market.
If you’d like to learn more about what we can do to help your better store your grain, contact us today.